Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Obama's Remarks at Women's Law Center

Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
National Women’s Law Center
Washington, D.C.
November 9, 2011

As Prepared for Delivery –

Good evening. It’s great to be back at the National Women’s Law Center surrounded
by so many powerful and accomplished women. Although if any of you have met
Michelle, you know that this is not a new experience for me.

I want to thank Marcia and Duffy for that wonderful introduction and for their

And finally, I want to recognize tonight’s honorees – the women who endured insults
and beatings and risked their lives fifty years ago because they believed in a different
future for their daughters and their sons. The Freedom Riders had faith that America
could still be perfected. And it is only because they did that I am able to stand here as
President of the United States.

Being here tonight reminds us that history isn’t always made by generals or presidents
or politicians. Change doesn’t always happen quickly or easily. Instead, change
happens when a group of students and activists decide to ride a bus down South
knowing full well the danger that lies ahead. Change happens when a group of legal
secretaries decides that the world needs more women attorneys – and they start an
organization to fight for people like them. Change depends on persistence. Change
requires determination.

That’s how change happens. And that’s how change will continue to happen –
especially when it comes to securing equal rights and equal opportunities for women.

The last time I spoke here was in 2005. Back then, I was brand new to Washington.
Some people still had a hard time pronouncing my name. And when I was thinking
about what to say to this group, I wasn’t just thinking about the legal cases you’ve
helped win or the milestones you’ve helped reach. I was thinking about my daughters,
and the world I want them to grow up in.

I think it’s fair to say that a few things have changed since then. As Michelle reminds
me, I have more gray hairs now. More people know my name, which I’ve come to
realize might actually be a mixed blessing. And Malia and Sasha have grown into
strong, smart, grounded young women. Malia even has a cell phone now, which is
most certainly a mixed blessing.

But even after all this time, my wish for my daughters and yours remains the same. I
want them to go out into a world where there is no limit on how big they can dream or
how high they can reach. And being here with all of you gives me hope. Because
although this journey is far from over, today our daughters live in a world that is fairer
and more equal than it was six years ago – a world where more doors are open to them
than ever before.

Today, for the first time in history, our daughters can see three women sitting on the
bench of the highest court in the land. They can come to the White House and see that
the top four lawyers on my staff – some of the sharpest legal minds I’ve ever come
across – are women. They can read about the extraordinary leadership of a woman in
the House of Representatives who went by the title “Madame Speaker.” And they can
turn on the news and see that one of the most formidable presidential candidates we’ve
ever seen has become one of the best Secretaries of State that this country has ever

Today, women make up almost half of our workforce and the majority of students in
our colleges and graduate schools. And women are breaking barriers in every field,
from science and business to sports and the armed forces.

Today, thanks to the health care reform that many of you helped pass, insurance
companies can no longer deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions like breast
cancer, or charge women more because they are more likely to incur costs for things like
childbirth. Those same companies must cover the cost of preventive services like
mammograms, domestic violence counseling and contraception. And we’re making
sure that women in the military and veterans get the care they need.

Today, thanks to the tireless efforts of people like Lilly Ledbetter, it’s easier for women
to demand equal pay for equal work. We passed tax credits that are keeping more
women out of poverty and helping them reach the middle class. Companies are being
encouraged to make workplaces more flexible so women don’t have to choose between
being a good employee and a good parent. And one of the first things I did after taking
office was to create a White House Council on Women and Girls to make sure that
every agency in the federal government considers the needs of women and girls in
every decision they make.

This is progress. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned from the women’s movement in
this country, it’s that there is always more work to do. There are always more
challenges to meet. And that’s especially true today, with so many Americans
struggling to recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Now, in the early days of this crisis, women weren’t hit quite as hard as men. Many of
the jobs that we’ve lost over the last decade have been in construction and
manufacturing – industries that have traditionally been dominated by men. And of the
15 job categories projected to grow the most in this country over the next decade, all but
two are occupied primarily by women.

But over the last couple of years, women have continued to lose jobs, especially in the
public sector. It doesn’t help that mothers are the primary or co-breadwinners in 63
percent of households – even as women earn just 77 cents for every dollar a man does.
Some of these women are single mothers struggling just to keep up with the bills or pay
a mortgage they can’t afford. I remember my own mother waking me up at four in the
morning to go over my lessons before she had to leave for work. And when I would
complain and grumble, she would say, “Well this is no picnic for me either, buster.”

These are the quiet heroes – never complaining, never hesitating to work that extra shift
or that extra job if that’s what it takes to give their children a better life. And in many
ways, that’s why we’re all here tonight – because we know that it’s up to us to keep
fighting for them – to keep making sure that women everywhere are treated fairly and
equally and given the opportunities they deserve.

And let’s be clear about one thing. When we talk about these issues that primarily
affect women – these aren’t just women’s issues. When women make less than men for
the same work, that hurts families who have to get by with less and businesses who
have fewer customers with less to spend. When a health care plan denies women
coverage because of a preexisting condition, that puts a strain on emergency rooms and
drives up the cost of health care for everyone. And when any of our citizens can’t fulfill
their potential because of factors that have nothing to do with their talent, character or
work ethic – that says something about who we are as Americans.
Read the rest here. I'll post video when it's available.